Why work with an agent?
Choose an agent who understands your needs
Here are a few questions to ask to help you determine if an agent is right for you:
An agent’s job is to:
As a homebuyer, you must work with your agent to find the home that’s right for you. Communication is key – tell your agent what you want, and be specific.
Here’s how mortgage approval works: the amount of money you qualify for, plus the amount of cash you can put down equals the amount you can afford to spend on a home. Most lending institutions won’t allow more than about 30% of your income to support a mortgage. If you have other debts, they usually won’t allow your debts and your mortgage to exceed 40% of your income.
Finalizing your mortgage
Once you’ve found the home you want to buy, you’ll need to finalize your financing. You’ll need to provide your lender with the following documents:
1. A copy of the real estate listing of the property. If the home is still to be built, the mortgage lender will need to see the architect’s or builder’s plans and details on lot size and location.
2. A copy of the offer to purchase or the building contract, if this document has been prepared.
3. Documents to confirm employment, income and source of pre-approval.
4. If you have a pre-approved mortgage, it’s a simple matter of finalizing a few details with your mortgage specialist.
Make sure your home is solid and secure inside and out before you buy it. A home inspector will determine structural and mechanical soundness, identify problem areas, provide cost estimates for any work required, and generate a report. It’s a great way to avoid headaches and costly problems that can turn a dream home into a money pit.
If you decide to go ahead and buy a home with issues that have been flagged by your inspector, you can base your offer on how much potential repairs and upgrades may cost.
Home inspection costs range according to size, age and location of the home. Your Royal LePage sales representative can recommend a reputable home inspection service or arrange for an inspector to visit your property.
1. Take a look at general upkeep. Is it clean? Are lawns left uncut? Do walls need paint? If the small stuff hasn’t been taken care of, there’s a good chance that bigger issues have been ignored as well.
2. Test it. Try out lights, faucets, toilets, air conditioning and major appliances.
3. Check for water damage. Look at ceilings and drywall for stains and bulges. Water that works its way in through a leaky roof or a cracked foundation can rot wood, create mildew and destroy possessions.
4. Watch for “spongy” floors. Take note of soft, springy sections, squeaky or uneven areas – these can be a sign that costly floor repairs are needed.
5. Check doors and windows. Make sure they fit snugly in their jambs and operate smoothly. Feel for drafts. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking – if wood isn’t protected from moisture, it will rot.
6. Look at the foundation. If you see deep cracks or loose mortar and bricks, there may be a significant structural problem. Soggy areas near the foundation are also a warning sign.
7. Make sure there’s enough storage space. If you are moving from a home with large closets and a shed, make sure your new house is able to store an equivalent amount of belongings.
8. Measure. Make sure your furniture will fit into your new house.
These tips are for your own first (or second) look at a home. For true peace of mind, you should always hire a certified home inspector before you buy.
Here’s how a credit check works:
Your personal credit history is compiled by credit bureaus, which create a credit report by collecting information from banks, retailers and other public records. The report generally goes back 6 or 7 years, and shows your credit and debit cards, bank accounts, personal loans, mortgages, etc. It shows creditors’ names, account numbers, current balances – and a detailed payment history. The report will also show public information like marriage, divorce, liens, judgments that have been entered against you, bankruptcy, etc.
The lender uses the credit report to determine whether they will lend you money. If they have concerns about something in the report, the lender will ask you for an explanation.
The lender will also use the report to verify other information on your mortgage application, like employment status and address (including the name of your landlord and perhaps rental payment history). They will also be able to see inquiries made by other creditors over the period of the report. (This information can be useful to a lender to show what other avenues of financing you might have tried and may raise questions about why another creditor declined to lend it to you.)
Honesty is the best policy
If you think there might be any credit problems, tell the lender up front and ask about their policies before you apply. There’s no point in trying to hide something that will show up in your credit history. Get a copy of your credit report before you apply for a mortgage – you may be able to avoid surprises and possible delays.
Take a look at your credit report
Because the report contains information about you, you have a right to see a copy of it. Equifax, one of Canada’s largest credit bureaus, will mail consumers a free copy of their personal credit file on request. For more information, call Equifax at 1-800-465-7166.
If you disagree with something in your credit history, you have the right to challenge it and ask that the information be corrected. For example, perhaps the report shows that you were over 90 days late paying a bill but does not indicate that you withheld payment pending a settlement of a dispute with the creditor. Or perhaps you were late with a particular payment because you were away. Whatever the explanation, contact the credit bureau to clarify the matter.
Figure out what you need
You have a number of decisions to make before you start looking for your new home:
Condos – less work, more rules
Short on maintenance and long on amenities, the condominium lifestyle is a favourite of empty nesters and retirees. Condominium apartments and townhomes are available in almost every neighbourhood and price range. Many offer pools, tennis courts and fitness areas – some even include golf courses. It’s an easy, hassle-free arrangement.
However, owning a condo means you’re governed by the rules and regulations established by the condominium board. Generally, these rules are necessary to ensure the enjoyment, safety and cleanliness of the building; when you’re doing your research, you may want to find out about the condo bylaws, especially if you have a pet.
Bungalows – small homes with big rewards
Bungalows offer the best of both worlds – a detached house and a yard, with less space to take care of. It’s a great way of preparing for the future, since living with fewer stairs makes it easier to get around should you slow down a little.
Retirement communities – a neighbourhood of friends
Adult lifestyle communities offer smaller homes, amenities often associated with condo living, and the opportunity to live with like-minded people. They tend to be resort-like in nature, and are built in rural areas that are close to large urban centres. Units range from apartments to detached homes. The focal point is the clubhouse, where you’ll likely find fitness facilities, tennis courts, games rooms and swimming pools. Some areas also feature golf courses.
If you’re not sure what option is best for you, please contact me. I’d be happy to talk to you about the possibilities that are available to you.
Typically, you visit your lawyer’s office to review and sign documents relating to the mortgage, the property you are buying, the ownership of the property and the conditions of the purchase. Your lawyer will also ask you to bring a certified cheque to cover the closing costs and any other outstanding costs.
Once your mortgage and the deed for the property are officially recorded, you become the official owner of the property and your lawyer will call you to pick up the keys to your new home.
The largest one-time cost is the down payment, which usually represents upto 25% of the total price of the property. Then, in addition to the actual purchase price, there are a number of other expenses that you may be expected to pay for.
Typical One-Time Expenses
Other costs may include landscaping, decorating, furnishings, appliances and repairs. Typical monthly costs include mortgage payments, maintenance, insurance, condo fees, property taxes and utilities.
An Offer to Purchase*
An Offer to Purchase is a legal document which specifies the terms and conditions of your offer to purchase the home. The offer can be firm or conditional.
Firm Offer to Purchase: preferable to the seller because it means you are prepared to purchase the home without any conditions. If the offer is accepted, the home is yours.
Conditional Offer to Purchase: means that you have placed one or more conditions on the purchase, such as “subject to home inspection,” “subject to financing” or “subject to sale of buyer’s existing home.” The home is not sold until all the conditions have been met.
*In the province of Quebec, this is referred to as a “Promise to Purchase.”
Acceptance of the Offer
Your Offer to Purchase will be presented as soon as possible. The seller may accept the offer, reject it, or submit a counter-offer. The counter-offer may be in reference to the price, the closing date, or any number of variables. The offers can go back and forth until both parties have agreed or one of you ends the negotiations.
Unless you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or rural Nova Scotia, land transfer taxes (or property purchase tax) are a part of the homebuying process. These taxes, levied on properties that are changing hands, are the responsibility of the purchaser. Depending on where you live, taxes can range from 0.5% to 2% of the total value of the property.
Many provinces have multi-tiered taxation systems that can seem complicated. If you purchase a property for $260,000 in Ontario, for example, 0.5% is charged on the first $55,000, 1% is charged on $55,000 to $250,000, while the $250,000 – $400,000 range is taxed at 1.5%. Your total tax bill? $2,375.00.
Land transfer taxes by province
Up to $200,000 X 1% of total property value
From $200,000 up X 2% of total property value
Up to $30,000 N/A
From $30,000 to $90,000 X 0.5% of total property value
From $90,000 to $150,000 X 1% of total property value
From $150,000 up X 1.5% of total property value
Up to $55,000 X 0.5% of total property value
From $55,000 to $250,000 X 1% of total property value
From $250,000 to $400,000 X 1.5% of total property value
From $400,000 up X 2% of total property value
Up to $50,000 X 0.5% of total property value
From $50,000 to $250,000 X 1% of total property value
From $250,000 up X 1.5% of total property value
1.5% on total property value
Outside Halifax County
Check with local municipality
What type of home is right for you?
There are three categories of home ownership: freehold, condominium and cooperative. Each has its benefits and drawbacks – speak to your Royal LePage agent to figure out which type will work best for your needs and your lifestyle.
Freehold homes offer two significant benefits: freedom of choice and privacy. Since you own the structure and grounds, you’re free to decorate and renovate whenever and whatever you want. However, all maintenance (indoors and out) is your responsibility – be prepared to spend time and money taking care of your home.
Condominiums are typically less expensive to own than a detached house. With a condo, you own (and are responsible for) the interior of your unit. Upkeep of the building and grounds is handled by the condominium association, which is funded by monthly fees collected from tenants. The down side? Condo residents enjoy less privacy than residents of detached homes, and often have to adhere to strict rules regarding noise, use of common areas, renovations, etc.
Co-ops are like condominiums, except instead of owning your unit, you own a percentage of shares in the entire building. One drawback to living in a cooperative is that if you decide to sell your shares and move out, the co-op board has the right to reject your prospective buyer.
Title insurance explained
What is title insurance? Do you need it? Here’s some information that can help you make an informed decision.
What does “title to property” mean?
Title is the legal term for ownership of property. Buyers want “good and marketable” title to a property. “Good title” means title appropriate for the buyer’s purposes; “marketable title” means title the buyer can convey to someone else.
Why do I need title insurance?
Prior to closing, public records are searched to determine the previous ownership of the property, as well as prior dealings related to it. The search might reveal existing mortgages, liens for outstanding taxes, utility charges, etc., registered against the property. At closing, the buyer expects property that is free of such claims.
Sometimes problems regarding title are not discovered before closing. They can make the property less marketable when the buyer subsequently sells, and can cost money to fix. For example, the survey might have failed to show that a dock and boathouse built on a river adjoining a vacation property was built without permission. The buyer of the property could be out-of-pocket if he is later forced to remove the dock and boathouse. Or, the property might have been conveyed to a previous owner fraudulently, in which case there is the risk that the real owner may come forward at some point and demand their rights with respect to the property.
Who is protected with title insurance?
Title insurance policies can be issued in favour of a purchaser, a lender, or both. Lenders will sometimes require title insurance as a condition of making the loan. Title insurance protects purchasers and/or lenders against loss or damage sustained if a claim that is covered under the terms of the policy is made.
Types of risks that are usually covered include:
For a risk to be covered, it has to have existed as of the date of the policy. As with any type of insurance policy, certain types of risks might not be covered. For example, native land claims and environmental hazards are normally excluded. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about the types of risks that may not be included in your policy.
The insured purchaser is protected against actual loss or damage sustained up to the amount of the policy, which is based on the purchase price. As well, some policies have inflation coverage, which means that if the fair market value of the property increases, the policy amount will also increase.
How long will I be covered?
Title insurance remains in effect as long as the insured purchaser has title to the land. Some policies also protect those who received title as a result of the purchaser’s death, or certain family members (e.g., a spouse or children) to whom the property may have been transferred for a nominal amount.
The premium for title insurance is paid once, at the time of purchase. In Canada, the purchaser generally pays for the title insurance, though there can be situations where the seller pays for it.
Protection and peace of mind
Title insurance can help ensure that a closing is not delayed due to defects in title. And if an issue arises, the title insurance covers the legal fees and expenses associated with defending the title and pays in the event of loss.